A Provide the Slide Trip to Ghana in August 2021
Showers of Blessings
Show some Love' were the first words we heard in Ghana. The workers from the bulky luggage with the board bags asked for some extra love. No problem, we had never been asked for a tip so charmingly before. Ghana welcomed us friendly, humorous and relaxed.
We had been driving for a good hour since the airport. Out of Accra, but the people, the low houses and the many lights of cars and motorcycles in the darkness, the small stores and big gas stations, the women with the goods on their heads, everything hardly changed. Accra did not stop. After a few more turns, we came to the beach at Krokobite. A big bar and a few shacks for backpackers and tourists from Ghana and Africa, this is 'Big Millies Backyard'. It was dark and noisy when we got out of the cab. A crowd of ten young surfers were performing: drums, singing and elegant movements. Arms, legs, beats, in the rhythm of the drums and then in between us. Out of rhythm, with our bags, still muddled from the flight. The surfers from Krokobite had organized 'the Warmest Welcome Ever' for us. Many drums, many voices and various dance moves. "We were overwhelmed, at the same time super happy and got into the party as best as we could."
Krokobite is a beach quite close to the capital Accra. But Ghana has hundreds of
kilometers of coastline. Of course, we drove on after a few days. With Brett Davies, aka Mr. Bright that we only knew recently from messaging and a few Zoom meetings. Brett received 59 surf kits from Provide the Slide (as of May 2023?). He went to distribution among the surfers at six spots or at least transported them there. Brett is a forefather of surfing in Ghana. Originally from Newquay in Cornwall, he went to Ghana at some point and stayed.
As a result, he quit his manager job and started his own surf school and small surf store in Ghana. He has been there for 15 years and provides young surfers with knowledge, equipment and ding-repairs wherever and however he can. The longer we were on the road with him, the clearer it became to us that while Provide the Slide is good at collecting and shipping boards, that is only half the story. Distribution, training and the constant repairing and accompanying on site, this is where dedicated local people are needed. Brett took over all of that here. He did a lot for Provide the Slide on the ground and we slowly got an idea of the extent to which he pursues his mission. His goal: get the kids in Ghana into surfing!
So now, we set of for a surf trip with Brett. Alongside with his business partner Sidiq Banda. Sidiq is a surfer, boxer and businessman. He organizes film shootings, major events and marketing campaigns. We went on the trip to visit the beaches and spots where our boards went to. In Ghana, it seems that for longer trips you have to start in the middle of the night. Meeting at 4 am, a little toing and froing and then off at 5 am or so. Driving over night? Nobody from the Ghanaians was able to recommend driving through the night. Too many question marks on what is going on at night on the roads. Our first stop was Cape Coast. Ali Royal Soccer is a school and a sports school right on the beach. We were expected, the boards were already there, but should be used for the first time now. We unpacked, bolted on fins and the many kids helped and jumped around us in excitement.
Brett explained the basics, take-off, current, rules and etiquette. I was especially impressed with their warm-up routine. All together and focused on establishing a good team spirit, and most important a lot of laughing together. There is no comparison to the ice-cold atmosphere at many European surfspots. Chris and Brett got in the water with the kids and pushed them into their first waves. The distances on our trip have not been particularly long, but it takes time to travel in Ghana. The roads are quite crowded and very regularly the police linger at the road to collect bribes under various pretexts. At some point we arrived in Cape Three Points at the Eco Lodge of Akwasi and his wife Ketty. To put it briefly: The tropical paradise at the end of the world. A wide sandy beach with a small creek in the middle. Palm trees everywhere, no roads, no cars, few people. At the west end of the beach a reef with a point break, at the east end of the bay a reef with a somewhat unreliable left wave. Wow.
Leaving a place like Escape Three Points is not easy, we now headed back eastwards to Busua. A village on a big golden beach. Before the Corona pandemic a well-travelled place for backpackers and surf tourists, now almost no guests. The beach produces very good waves when the tide is rising. At the evening of our arrival, virtually the younger residents were gathered in the line-up and on the beach. Maybe we considered a crowd of 15 people already mighty big at that time, you get used to empty line-ups quickly. Everything that was somehow surfable was found on this beautiful evening with chest-high waves in the water, almost all surfboards with Provide the Slide logo sprayed on. Snatched up somewhere from Germany and Switzerland. Surfing was celebrated in Busua with a lot of style and a lot of commitment. No fear, no hesitation about who has the right of way or who is sneaking around whom.
Some situations occurred on a regular basis throughout the trip. We squatted on the beach in boardshorts, exhausted, surfed-out, and meanwhile in the line-up just raced one of the PTS boards down the line. In this moment, a short green twin-fin from Munich was just experiencing its second spring in the powerful beach-break. On the board a teenager, he had taken over the board on the beach when another one came out of the water. We recapped once again the entire process: the board was donated in Munich, it was accepted by our friend Frede in Munich-Perlach and stored with many others in his basement. All the time the search for material is happening via website, Instagram and through the stores and helpers. At some point I showed up with my old van from Berlin at Fredes place in Munich, loaded it together with the other stuff and drove to the German-Swiss border. After discussion with customs, the load of surfgear and I were 'inspected' in detail. Finally, forms and explanations got me free passage to Bern Switzerland. From Chris basement it went to a warehouse, here the board was repaired by Simon. Then it was loaded with 58 other sets into a container of the NGO Velafrica. Went by truck to Basel, on a small ship to Rotterdam, from there on a large ship over many weeks (why does it actually take so long?) to the port of Accra.
There, the container was loaded onto a truck, the other goods were unloaded and the boards were driven by van to our guy Brett Davies in Krokobite. He sorted all the sets sensibly according to local needs and conditions and took them to six destinations in Western Ghana. He conducted instruction, safety, rip currents, 'how to take-off' for the beginners and 'how to repair' for the experienced ones. From then on it was back to surfing and on that sunny evening in August we ran across the little green board again. It took a lot of work by many hands to get the board here. The contrast between basements, website programming, freeways, customs officials, never ending ding repair, exotic fin systems with missing screws and this glorious moment on the beach in Busua could hardly be bigger. Awesome, Provide the Slide works!
Ghana has about 31 million people, more than ten million of them are under 15 years old. Ghana has 600 km of coastline, all I have seen with good surf. Bordering Ghana in the east are Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Congo, Angola, towards the west Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea. I have no idea how many people live there, but there are many. Among these, very many are young, want to surf and don not have access to surfgear. All of them have very good waves nearby. Africa's coast receives lots of swells from the Southern Ocean. We will collect more boards, we will send more boards and we will do more trips to West Africa.
The trip ended as it began, on the long waves at Krokobite near Accra. We were full of new experiences, the acquaintances of great people and good surf. It was epic and exhausting at times. Ghana gave us what the slogans on the TukTuks, the billboards in front of the churches and the TV preachers unanimously promise: